Digital Communities

The Importance of Stakeholder Relations in Collegiate Esports Integration

From humble beginnings to global, mainstream success, the rise of esports has brought a litany of opportunities and challenges relating to regulation, varsity integration and professional institutionalization. Even with its proliferation around the world and relative brand name recognition, the relationship between esports and traditional sports continues to be a contentious one, leading to many universities and colleges taking a limiting approach to the flourishing esports market. This paper will review the growing body of research available to understand the struggles, achievements and potential value of collegiate esports integration. While competitive gaming at the varsity level often finds itself at the behest of athletic departments, I argue that there is a need to refrain from trying to fit esports into conventional models. A lot can be learned from athletics, but the department’s expertise does not lie in esports. I make the case that with the continued adoption of esports into academic institutions there is a growing need to establish new frameworks, where finding balance between competition, technology and education lies with the unified academic community.
About the Author
Matthew Zyla

Matthew Zyla is a graphic designer with a particular interest in print and corporate identity design. Since graduating from OCAD University with a Bachelor of Design in 2010 he has assisted over twenty organizations with their image. By completing a supplementary web and multimedia design course at Toronto Image Works, Matthew was able to broaden his skillset with an understanding in digital platforms, print and web development. This new insight has helped him straddle the worlds of traditional and digital design. For the past four years Matthew has been working at the Toronto-based branding and design agency Bhandari & Plater Inc., gaining valuable experience in print production and digital communications. His knowledge of HTML and CSS along with an expertise in content management systems such as WordPress, Drupal and Squarespace has enhanced his ability to develop email campaigns, websites and digital advertising solutions for a host of clients in the education, government and corporate sectors. Matthew’s interest in illustration, motion graphics and animation allows him to implement design intensive campaigns using his diverse and creative skillset.

About the Project

Throughout the different stages of development for our gaming hub, code-named The Armoury, my group had the opportunity to interact with different stakeholders within the Ryerson community to better understand the needs, wants and reality of esports integration. Through community engagement and supplementary research, I focused on the five groups with a vested stake in formal collegiate esports integration: students, faculty, administration, partners and parents. The research I conducted informed me of the benefits, requirements and value esports integration can bring to each of these groups.

With a background in graphic design, I undertook the personal journey of creating the branding for The Armoury (view Brand Standards here). The interior of the logo resembles a flag, often seen as a symbol of team spirit and pride in sporting competitions and originally used as a military ensign on the battlefield.

During the completion of our master's project we had the distinct pleasure of collaborating with students from Ryerson's Department of Architectural Science under the guidance of Professor Vincent Hui to turn our vision into reality (or virtual reality in our case).

Logo design for The Armory
When my colleagues, Robin Kang, Stefan Grambart, Emily Le and I first proposed the creation of an on-campus gaming hub we had no idea what awaited us come March. So much emphasis was placed on creating a physical space that when the COVID-19 Pandemic hit we were forced to take a step back and rethink our approach to esports integration. While the setback was discouraging at first, it provided unique perspectives and new insights into how gaming can be incorporated into the academic environment. The pandemic has provided an important educational period, highlighting the opportunities that video games can provide as a socially safe activity. There has been more outreach and interest from athletics departments, with competitive gaming as the only electronic sport still active and thriving during the quarantine. Despite the shift to digital services and distance education, there will still be a need for communal spaces, where students can gather to interact, compete and learn from one another. We need to strike a balance between our digital existence and our physical domains. Leveraging both online and offline platforms will be essential in moving forward.